The Vision at Troas

 

At Troas (more properly Alexandria Troas), Paul had a vision which set the course for his missionary efforts over the remaining years of his life.

"During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, 'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them" (Acts 16: 9-10).

Below, Paul's Holy Spirit directed route form Pisidian Antioch to Alexandria Troas

map of western turkey with location of Troas

 

Alexandria Troas

According to Greek historian Strabo (c. 63 BC - c.21 AD), the original settlement on the site was called Sigia. About 310 BC a new and far larger city was founded there  by Antigonus I Monopthalmos, a general of Alexander the Great and ruler of one of the successor kingdoms established after the young ruler's death in 323 BC. Antigonia forced the inhabitants of surrounding villages to relocate to his new city, which he named Antigonia after himself. After the deaths of Antigonus and his son Demetrius at the battle of Ipsus in 302 BC, Lysimachus, another of Alexander's generals, changed the name of the city to Alexandria, one of fifteen cities named after their ex-boss by his generals who took over parts his empire.

Because of its proximity to the fabled city of Troy (15 miles north), travelers called the city Alexandria Troas to distinguish it from others with the same name, most notably the Ptolemaic capital of Egypt. In Roman times, it was a significant port for ships travelling between Anatolia and Europe. Its strategic position near the entrance to the Hellespont made it a convenient place to transfer goods passing between the northern Aegean and the interior of Asia Minor. Its artificial harbor provided shelter from the prevailing north winds. Some ships sailing from Alexandria Troas crossed the Mediterranean to Neapolis (modern Kavalla, Greece), the starting point of the Via Egnatia, the main land route west to Rome. During the reign of Augustus (September 23, 63 BC – August 19, 14 AD) a colony of Roman merchants was established within the city. At this time the Province of Asia was administered from Alexandria Troas by Herodes Atticus, whose magnificent odeum on the Acropolis of Athens still bears his name. The principal extant monuments in Alexandria Troas were erected by him during his term of office there.

 

In the footsteps of Paul — Alexandria Troas

At the time of Paul, Alexandria Troas was a Roman colony, with a governmental organization modeled after that of Rome. At some point a church was started there, because Paul stopped to preach there on this third missionary journey. Today the extensive, but rather overgrown site of the ancient city occupies a lonely area 50 miles south of Çanakkale. Today the circuit of the old walls (6-miles in circumference) can be traced, and in places they are fairly well preserved.

Below, partial restoration the Temple of Apollo Smintheus (Apollo the Mouse Slayer). Apollo had the power to send famine and epidemic diseases, usually with mice, to those who disrespected or insulted him. He was also invoked to kill the mice that caused disease and plague.

temple of Apollo

Below, Baths of Herodes Atticus at Alexandria Troas

baths

Emperor Trajan built an aqueduct which can still be traced. The harbor had two large basins, now almost choked with sand. Below, the inner harbor.

Inner harbor

Below, remains of the dock at the harbor

Harbor

At Troas Paul, Silas and Timothy were joined by Luke, the author of Acts, who began recording the journey in the first person:

"'Come over to Macedonia and help us.' After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them" (Acts 16: 9-10).

 

Samothrace/Samothracia

Samothrace is a mountainous Island in the northeastern Aegean Sea, about 25 miles off the southern coast of Asia Minor, with peaks rising over 5,000 feet. It was a convenient place to for boats to anchor rather than risk sailing at night.

samothrace mountains from boat

According to Homer, Poseidon watched the fighting at Troy from its highest peak, Mt. Fengári (5,380'). As implied by its name, Samothrace ("Thracian Samos") was originally populated by Thracians, who founded a sanctuary of the "great gods" there. About 300 BC, the first Greeks arrived and from then on the cult grew and developed. Under Roman control, beginning in 168 BC, the cult of the mother goddess Kybele, which originated in Asia Minor, became associated with that of the great gods*. Only with the spread of Christianity in the 5th century AD did the cult come to an end.

*Our knowledge of the cult of the "great gods" remains imperfect owing to the secrecy maintained by its practitioners. A central place was occupied by the Thracian mother goddess, two divinities of the underworld, a vegetation god and others who were revered as protectors of nature, and later as patrons of sailors.

After spending the night at Samothrace, the missionaries sailed for the port city of Neapolis.

Neapolis

Today, the site of ancient Neapolis ("new city") is occupied by modern Kavala, a name derived from the Latin caballo meaning "horse." It is the second largest city in northern Greece, after Thessaloniki.

One of the most attractive of Greece's large cities (population 56,000), in Paul's day Neapolis was the port city for Philippi, 9 miles to the north. It sat on a neck of land between two bays, each of which served as a harbor.

kavala port

The city was founded in the 6th century BC by settlers from the island of  Thassos, but the area has been inhabited since Neolithic times (3,000 BC). It became Roman in 168 BC and served as a base for Julius Caesar's assassins, Brutus and Cassius, before their defeat at nearby Philippi.

Below, Byzantine fortress on the hill of Panadia, extended in the middle of the 16th century by Ibrahim Pasha, Grand Vizier of Suleiman the Magnificent.

Below, Kamares aqueduct in Kavala constructed 1550 by Ibrahim Pasha.

kamaras aqueduct

Neapolis knew great prosperity thanks to its strategic location — its proximity to the gold mines in the nearby Pangaion hills and its position on the Via Egnatia, the important east-west Roman highway through Macedonia.

Below, outside Kavala is a section of the Via Egnatia, or Egnatian Way, which the four missionaries followed north to Philippi.

 

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